Iqaluit residents speak out on trucked water, sewage services

The public gallery at Iqaluit city hall was packed for Thursday night's public consultation on a bylaw that governs the city’s water supply and sewer service.

Proposed bylaw change suggests a third party could haul water

The packed public gallery spilled into the hallway at a public consultation in Iqaluit Thursday night. (Michelle Pucci/CBC)

The public gallery at Iqaluit city hall was packed for Thursday night's public consultation on a bylaw that governs the city's water supply and sewer service.

However, with increasing water restrictions due to low levels in the city's water supply from Lake Geraldine, people came out en masse to talk about water usage in general.

The city is looking to make changes to a bylaw to be able to truck water and sewage to meet the needs of three businesses: Nunavut Brewing Company, Black Heart Café, and Tower Arctic Ltd.

The bylaw states the city's trucked services plan has a limit of 2,000 litres of water delivery per day to businesses because it does not have the staff or trucks to deliver more. The three businesses' water and sewage needs put the city over its trucking limit.

The proposed bylaw changes suggest a third party could haul water. This would allow the city to deliver more than its limit of 2,000 litres of water per day.

Concerns about water supply

About 40 people attended the consultation, with some crowding around the door, struggling to hear because there was not enough room for everyone to sit.

Some people at the meeting expressed concern that trucking more water would put stress on the city's already-restricted water supply. Earlier this week, the city asked people to reduce their water consumption by taking shorter showers and avoiding washing cars with city water.

But Mayor Madeleine Redfern said this proposed bylaw change isn't about water volume.

"The biggest difference is ... where these three businesses are situated, they're not on piped service," she said. "If there was a pipe, we wouldn't be having this conversation."

Mona Godin, manager of DJ Specialties, was one of 12 people who spoke during the three-hour meeting.

As someone who lives with trucked service at home, she said homes or businesses on trucked water should be treated no differently than those on piped services.

"All businesses need to be treated the same way," Godin said. "They are all providing a service and they are all paying taxes."

Bethany Scott also spoke at the meeting. She said the bylaw should be drafted based on the principle that water is a human right.

Bethany Scott spoke first at the public consultation in Iqaluit Thursday night. (Angela Hill/CBC)

Scott, like many other speakers, felt the proposed changes to the bylaw are being rushed for the wrong reasons.

"It seems odd to me that there are a couple of very specific instances where we can't supply water to businesses in our community and to council I say: just take care of those," she said.

"You don't have to change your governing documents and possibly introduce unintended consequences to do that." 

Scott referred to concerns that changes to the bylaw to allow third-party trucking could lead to a slippery slope of privatization of water.

Keep services public, says resident

Iqaluit lawyer and Apex resident Anne Crawford said she wants to see the businesses' trucked water and sewage needs met through the existing bylaw, maintaining the public monopoly on water.

"Why don't we sit down and talk about water as a regulated public resource that we share, and we want to keep transparent and in the control of our municipal council because that's where we trust it to be," she said.

Three members of the brewery spoke at the consultation, frustrated by their lack of ability to access water because of the bylaw. The brewery has been asking the city to let them haul extra water and sewage.

The comments from the consultation are set to be provided to councillors in time for their next council meeting on Tuesday.

Redfern said she will ask staff to look at some of the options presented during the meeting, "so that a full assessment of what is reasonable and … possible" will be part of the discussion.

"We care deeply about our community and we want to ensure all the different entities in our community have ... the water they require and need, whether it is for residents or businesses," she said.

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